16 Mar 2017

Review recommends no change to University Entrance

8:48 am on 16 March 2017

University Entrance does not need changing despite some complaints it has become too complex, a review of the award has concluded.

University students

Photo: RNZ

However, the Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has suggested the award needs a new name.

The review of University Entrance (UE) was the first since 2011 and focused on changes that were introduced in 2014 and caused a drop in the pass rate.

NZQA has published a discussion document, which said the current UE requirements appeared to be "about right" in terms of balancing students' opportunity for access to university with their chances of success.

The 2014 changes aligned UE with NCEA level 3 and introduced a requirement for 14 level 3 credits in three subjects approved as providing a good preparation for university study, 10 level 2 credits from standards regarded as literacy-rich, and 10 level 1 credits from numeracy-rich standards.

The new standard prompted a fall in the award rate from 51 percent to 45.5 percent of Year 13 students in 2014, though the rate increased again to 48.6 percent the following year.

Tertiary institutions said the first year of students under the new standard were either better prepared than in previous years or about the same, the discussion document said.

However, some school respondents and students told the review the new UE requirements were too complex and that tertiary institutions' requirements often varied, which made it hard to advise students.

The document said all tertiary institutions that took part in the review expressed concern about students' literacy and numeracy skills, but institutions also worried about the impact a higher standard might have on enrolments.

They also acknowledged that many degree subjects did not require higher numeracy skills.

School staff told the review some of the standards included in the UE literacy requirement were a poor choice because they were not created to assess literacy, such as those in accounting and chemistry.

Tertiary institution staff said some students did not have sufficiently broad and deep subject knowledge.

The discussion document said analysis of students' school and first-year university results indicated their literacy and numeracy skills had little bearing on their success.

"Students with higher literacy and numeracy skills have only a slightly higher likelihood of success at degree-level study than students with lower literacy and numeracy skills," the report said.

There was also little difference between students who had done more internally-assessed standards at school and those who had completed more externally-asessed standards.

However, students who gained 14 level 3 credits in each of four rather than three approved subjects did better in their first year than other students, while those with only two subjects did worse.

Doing well at school, having a broad spread of approved subjects and getting NCEA 3 were good indicators of success, the document said.

All tertiary institutions, including universities, said the qualification would be better renamed 'Degree-Level Entrance', the document said.

That would mean making UE mandatory for all degree-granting institutions. Currently, it is optional for non-universities to use UE as the benchmark for entry to their degree courses.

The review said renaming UE was outside its scope.

Feedback on the discussion document closes on 28 April.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs